RLR MSport is primed to commence its dual assault on the 2019 European Le Mans Series (ELMS), which will be about defending its cherished LMP3 title and stamping its authority in the super-competitive LMP2 division from the outset of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard (12-14 April).
The ELMS and Michelin Le Mans Cup calendars both feature six halts at Europe’s most esteemed racetracks, including Monza, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps, although RLR MSport’s season will be punctuated by a welcome return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans (15-16 June).
John Farano remains with the Bolton, Lancashire team for a third consecutive season, except the Canadian will graduate to LMP2 machinery in 2019, having come out on top in the race for last year’s ELMS LMP3 Teams’ and Drivers’ crowns.
Sharing the #43 ORECA 07 LMP2 will be Indian young gun Arjun Maini and ex-Formula 1 racer and FIA World Endurance Champion Bruno Senna, and all three drivers are brimming with optimism about RLR MSport’s prospects following an encouraging two-day test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
“The ELMS Prologue will be RLR MSport’s drivers’ first full contact and a great way to prepare for the 4 Hours of Le Castellet,” said Senna. “I’m confident we have a good base setup and a strong team to build on from here. I can’t wait to get back into the LMP2 car, which has given me so much success, and I hope this season will yield more big results.”
Maini added: “My only test in Barcelona went well. We completed the run-plan and were quick as well, but we haven’t really got any comparisons yet. The team has Bruno Senna, who is very experienced, and John Farano, who is a very good and calculated driver. The grid does look tough this year and the tyre war should also be interesting, but we are quite confident with the race pace of the Dunlops. It will be at Circuit Paul Ricard when we find out how competitive we are.”
Farano said: “I believe RLR MSport is in a great place following the recent Barcelona test. Being behind the wheel of the ORECA 07 is truly a pleasure and I’m really looking forward to competing in our first ELMS event of 2019 at Circuit Paul Ricard.
“I was very impressed with how quickly Arjun (Maini) got up to speed, and his exceptional talent will no doubt boost RLR MSport’s competitiveness at all ELMS rounds. I’m also very much looking forward to welcoming Bruno Senna to the team, as he will play a huge role; he’s a highly respected and talented driver whose illustrious career needs no introduction and I know that we will immediately benefit from his experience and leadership.”
Pre-season testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has put RLR MSport on a strong footing, enabling the reigning Teams’ Champion to home in on strong base setups for both its ORECA 07 LMP2 and Ligier JSP3 race cars while its drivers got acquainted with their new machinery.
However, all six of RLR MSport’s drivers will come together for the first time in official ELMS and Le Mans Cup testing at Circuit Paul Ricard (8-10 April) – the Prologue to the season-opening 4 Hours of Le Castellet on 12-14 April.
Much like their LMP2 counterparts, RLR MSport’s ELMS LMP3 trio have put in strong performances during testing, inspiring confidence that they can defend the team’s titles against a more competitive and determined opposition.
British racer Martin Rich is a known quantity for RLR MSport, but Denmark’s Martin Vedel and Christian Olsen have been exemplary since joining the fold and are well primed for the Prologue next week.
“Testing in Barcelona went quite well and was a really good way to familiarise myself with RLR MSport, my teammates and the Ligier JSP3 race car,” said Olsen. “I think with the team’s proven track record and capability, coupled with the combined pace of the three ELMS LMP3 drivers, we definitely stand well. I believe many of our rival teams will be strong and it appears the competition has stepped up again this year. Then again, you really can’t tell until the first round gets underway, which I can’t wait for.”
Rich added: “I’m really looking forward to Le Castellet and getting the season underway. Two days of testing in Barcelona went very well and gave us plenty of time to get the car set up. All three of us have also spent plenty of time on the simulator, learning Circuit Paul Ricard so we can hit the ground running next week. I think our pace will be very strong and consistent – the key to a good result in the ELMS. It’s impossible to say how we’ll stack up against the opposition until we’ve seen how the Official Test goes, but we’re very confident that we’ll be up at the sharp end.”
Vedel, who finished second in the 2018 Italian GT3 Championship’s Paul Ricard round, said: “I’m really looking forward to the Prologue as it will be our first chance to measure ourselves against our competitors. Based on our testing pace, I think we have a very competitive line-up. There’s still much to be learned, but we will be ready to fight for the podium in Le Castellet. The LMP3 field looks even tougher this year, so we must be on top of our game every time if we want to fight for the win.”
RLR MSport Director of Motorsport Operations, Nick Reynolds, said: “We go into 2019 as the defending LMP3 Champion, with an additional LMP2 programme, so this will be a big year for RLR MSport. We have a potent LMP2 roster that has an abundance of talent and a good mix of youth and experience, and you’ll find the same quality in our LMP3 line-up. I’m looking forward to getting back on-track in anger and seeing how things shake out at Circuit Paul Ricard.”